May 26, 2011 / Filmwell
Kenji Koiso has his summer vacation all planned out: he and his friend Sakuma have …
July 17, 2014
Mubi has posted an excerpt from a translation of an unfilmed Pasolini script recently published by Verso Books. (Which, of great note, has a preface from Badiou and an introduction by Ward Blanton of all people. Blanton does a lot of interesting interdisciplinary work on NT Studies and continental philosophy.)
Verso says in their blurb for the book:
This is a key addition to the growing debate around St Paul and to the proliferation of literature centred on the current turn to religion in philosophy and critical theory, which embraces contemporary figures such as Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek and Giorgio Agamben.
I have a feeling that the key addition in this respect may be more Blanton’s introduction than Pasolini’s script.
That said, Pasolini writes in this excerpt:
The world in which – in our film – Saint Paul lives and works is therefore the world of 1966 or ’67: as a consequence, it is clear that all of the place names need to be displaced. The centre of the modern world – the capital of colonialism and of modern imperialism – the seat of modern power over the rest of the earth – is not any longer, today, Rome. And if it isn’t Rome, what is it? It seems clear to me: New York, along with Washington. In the second place: the cultural, ideological, civil, in its own way religious centre – the sanctuary, that is, of enlightened and intelligent conformism – is no longer Jerusalem, but Paris. The city that is equivalent to the Athens of that moment, then, is in large measure the Rome of today (seen naturally as a city of grand historical but not religious tradition). And Antioch could probably be replaced, by analogy, by London (insofar as it is the capital of an imperial antecedent of American supremacy, just as the Macedonian–Alexandrian empire preceded the Roman empire).
The theatre of Saint Paul’s travels is, therefore, no longer the Mediterranean basin but the Atlantic.
Passing from geography to the social-historical reality: it is clear that Saint Paul revolutionarily crushed, with the simple power of his religious message, a kind of society founded on the violence of class, imperialism, and above all slavery; and therefore, as a con- sequence, it is clear that the Roman aristocracy and the various collaborationist ruling classes will be replaced by analogy with the modern bourgeois class that holds capital in its hands, while the humble and the downtrodden will be replaced by analogy with the bourgeoisie/liberals, the workers, the subproletariat of today.
So far, count me in, any minor quibbles about the fit of the analogues aside.
It has always been clear from Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew that he got New Testament theology in a pretty profound, even prescient way. It took a while for Historical Jesus studies interfacing with Jesus cinema to catch up with articulating the vibe Pasolini achieves in that film. Likewise, the above two paragraphs from the St. Paul script could be cribbed from any number of recent academic texts on Paul’s missional enterprise as resistance to the Empire – a field of NT study that has grown alongside interest in the sociological phenomena and material culture of earliest Christianity as a subculture.
The image Pasolini describes below neatly captures much recent re-envisioning of Paul as an apocalyptic interpreter of culture. Where we see innovation, renaissance, and progress, Paul sees the end of the world already present in the social indifference and hostility of Empire even if we are not yet being angrily consumed by the inevitable terror of judgment.
His execution will not be described naturalistically (replacing, as usual, by analogy, decapitation with the electric chair): but it will have mythic and symbolic qualities of a remembrance, like the fall in the desert. Saint Paul will suffer martyrdom in the middle of the bustle of a suburb of a large city, modern to the breaking-point, with its suspension bridges, its skyscrapers, its immense and crushing crowd, which passes without stopping in front of the spectacle of death and continues to whirl around, through its enormous streets, indifferent, hostile, without meaning. But in this world of steel and cement, the word ‘God’ resounds (or starts to resound).
If the script proves a bit drawn out, I wager Blanton’s intro alone is worth the ticket price.